A Deep Dive into Goal Prioritization
Sep 22, by Tanya Alvarez
Section 1: Goal Prioritization and its Obstacles
**Why is Goal Prioritization So Difficult for Entrepreneurs? **
Goal prioritization sounds self-explanatory—initially. On the surface, it seems all you need to do is line all your tasks up in a row, and voila! It’s all done.
Well, if you run a business – like I do – you know there’s a whole lot more to setting goals and prioritizing them than merely making a list. For one thing, working for yourself means you’re in charge of controlling the chaos that goes into running your enterprise. You must look at each task and long-term goal before accurately deciding when you’ll work on them and how much time you’ll put in.
Moreover, unless you’re willing to put in 90 hours a week, there’s a need to extract value from every single minute that you have. Long gone are the days where it was advisable to put all your time into a job. Your quality of life should actually be one of the main goals you prioritize. Therefore, you have to be incredibly strategic about your workday.
What is Goal Prioritization?
Successful goal prioritization is creating a system that gives you the best return on your time and makes the most significant impact on your business.This isn’t an ad hoc kind of system. Instead, it’s crucial to weigh all the factors involved to ensure you get the most out of your minutes.
Problems People Run into with Goal
Problem #1: Focusing on Tight Deadlines
Choosing tasks with short deadlines gives you instant wins that can shoot dopamine up to your brain and make you feel good about yourself.
Unfortunately, focusing on those sprinting tasks isn’t the best course of action for your business. Instead, building your enterprise requires focusing on less pressing deadlines because they offer more substantial rewards. One Forbes article speaks this notion, bringing up how short-term thinking will obstruct your long-term success. In fairness, those dopamine hits are nearly irresistible when you’re looking for wins and trying to get the ball rolling. And I’m not necessarily against performing functions for your business that make you feel good. However, you’re running an entire enterprise, not only one facet of it. That means learning how to delegate, strategize, and – yes – prioritize.
Problem #2: Not Thinking Big Picture Because You Feel Stretched
Entrepreneurship is all about the big picture. You aren’t performing a sprint that provides instant gratification. Your success stems from your ability to stick to a plan and focus on your long-term objectives with no concrete deadlines. It’s an issue I empathize with a lot. We all feel stretched at some point as an entrepreneur. Deciding what should be your top priority when there are so many critical business elements is daunting.
With the weight of the world on your shoulders, why wouldn’t you start pinging off the less pressing work to fuel (and fool) yourself with all that dopamine? After all, you already feel like you’re swimming against the current. You might as well feel good while fighting an uphill battle. Of course—this approach is highly unadvisable, but it’s a mistake we’re all susceptible to.
Problem #3: Putting Too Much Weight into a To-Do List
There is a world of difference between etching notches into a to-do list and optimizing your goal prioritization.
Do you ever wonder why – according to Forbes – entrepreneurial icons like Richard Branson don’t bother with to-do lists? One of the primary reasons is due to the lack of goal prioritization involved. They don’t include a system helping business owners decipher the value these tasks or projects bring to your organization. You just end up chasing checkmarks, losing sight of your overall vision, and aligning your business objectives with your values.
I was guilty of this mistake when I started my business. Actually, I ran into all three problems listed above at the earliest stages of my entrepreneurial journey and evolution. By checking off the shortest to-do items, it fooled me into thinking I was being productive. In reality, I was avoiding the time-consuming projects and tasks that lay outside my comfort zone. And I didn’t even realize I was veering so far off-path.
All a to-do list amounts to is busy work. It’s a result of this tactic’s overwhelming nature. Therefore, I wasn’t moving my business forward. So, I really needed to dig deep and investigate an optimal system to prioritize projects in a manner that gets me closer to my goals and aligns with my values.
That said, read below as I explain the system that I created to keep me from getting pulled in a million different directions:
Section 2: The Strategies and Tactics that Help Your Prioritize Your Goals
Design Your Life Through Intentionality
How many hours per week are you willing to commit to your business?
Setting goals is more than putting a number on a piece of paper and striving for that figure. It’s more about establishing an objective that aligns with your values while inspiring you to keep moving forward. I’ll use myself as an example. My son is soon to be one year old—and much of my focus must be directed to him. So, I aim to work 30 hours per week. If I want a return on my invested time, it necessitates being incredibly picky about what I do.
Everything I choose to do during a given day must align with my values and goals. Moreover, I find myself continually saying no to things that plainly don’t connect with my vision and will not offer the most value for time spent.
As a result, I’ve become something of a time ninja—and I’m pinpoint with my choices.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people want to earn $1 million in their first year running a business. But they don’t have the foundation in place, whether it’s not having any clients or lacking the know-how for earning money. Sure, it’s possible to bridge the gap if you’re unwilling to sleep more than 3 hours per night. But that’s not an option for most of us.
Realistically, the modern entrepreneur values their quality of life, and 100-hour workweeks don’t really mesh with today’s lifestyle. Without dedicating every last hour to your company, you need to be more realistic and specific on the criteria.
How much yearly revenue – at a minimum – are you willing to accept by December?
This question hinges upon your profits. In turn, it also involves what you want to delegate and spend on your business.
I personally work from a 70-30 split. Out of everything I pull in revenue-wise, 70% is for profits, and 30% is for business expenses. This might involve education and hiring. When you need to delegate, recruiting the correct people is of the utmost importance.
What’s the minimum amount of time you’re willing to spend on yourself and the things you love?
Whether binging a Netflix show, spending time with your family, or exercising, enjoying activities you love is crucial to your productivity.
One lifehack.org article cites how “me-time” improves your overall productivity. There’s even an episode of Mad Men – a show that seems to promote being a workaholic – where it’s encouraged to walk away from an assignment just to get a fresh perspective. Your ability to produce decreases drastically by losing yourself too much in entrepreneurial endeavors.
Along with my 30 hours per week spent on work, I require an hour a day for exercise and a half-hour to talk to family or friends.
Which business-related activity brings you the most joy?
Everybody’s got a wheelhouse where they can strut their stuff and show off their skill set. And as much as you can’t spend your entire day lavished in your comfort zone, enjoyment ignites one’s spirit.
When I was building OwnersUp, I hired a team of business coaches to run group calls. Suddenly, I wasn’t in on any of these sessions, which was something I missed, big time!
Again, there is a delicate balance here. I’m the owner of my business and can’t spend all my 30 hours (or even a large portion of it) doing group calls. But I definitely could spend 3 hours of my week performing this task that I find so fulfilling.
I needed to set everything in stone. Because it gave me a clear picture of what time I had available and how to delegate. Moreover, I knew that I had 27 hours to spend in the most productive manner possible without question.
What’s the key takeaway from intentional design?
Life can be very vague, in flux, and abstract. There’s no mathematical equation that gives us all the right decisions to make. Instead, we need to set the criteria so that our priorities – business and lifestyle – align with realistic, obtainable, and inspirational goals.
Speaking to Yourself in the Third Person
When you’re ambitious and intelligent like many entrepreneurs and business owners, it’s natural to be hard on yourself. Because you’re so driven, you’re vulnerable to feeling as though you aren’t doing enough.
Think about how you talk to yourself for a moment—especially when you’re frustrated. I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t talk to anyone else that way, not even your least favorite person. Never mind your friends.
It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud or Socrates to tell you that negative self-talk is detrimental in almost every form or function. However, what might shock you is the required “hack” that helps you out of this negative pattern.
Namely, talking to yourself in the third person is reported by experts and philosophers to positively impact your thought process.
Upon examining the reasoning, the logic is straightforward to grasp. Think about it—referring to yourself in the first person is emotionally charged by nature. I’m not saying you’re self-involved, but we’re involved with ourselves by nature as humans, creating a sense of negative bias.
By removing the first-person shackle and taking on a third-person narrative, you offer yourself separation from your ego. And you’ll see everything more three-dimensional, from a clearer, more objective perspective. I refer to this technique as distanced self-talk.
Applying Distanced Self-Talk to Your Goal Prioritization:
We all instinctually avoid pain where possible.
Sadly, no story of success exists without pain. We don’t cheer for heroes who avoid thwarting the bad guy because their evil plan is too challenging to stop. And we don’t cheer for athletes who don’t dig down deep when the going gets tough.
The same can be said for building a business and prioritizing the goals surrounding it. Whether we’re talking Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, or any other iconic business figure, you’ll see a journey that involved many years of discomfort. It’s then vital to ask yourself if it’s possible to accomplish what you want by remaining in “default mode” and staying in your comfort zone.
Here’s a pro tip to get you out of your comfort zone:
With a list of goals that need prioritizing, you need that objective bit of distance from yourself. You can focus on what needs to get done versus what you’re afraid of doing because it will cause discomfort. Plus, you can be more encouraging to yourself.
The Formula of an Action Plan:
I have all my clients create action plan sheets—here’s an explanation of how they work:
- The overall objective:
- E.g., “I want to create content every month.”
- What will be the result of accomplishing the goal?
- E.g., “With my new content, I want to generate 50 new prospects.”
- A numerical amount that dictates how much work you must put in.
- A numerical amount that dictates how much this will help your business.
- A numerical amount ranking how crucial this is to your long-term vision
When deciding on your goals and where they should be prioritized, I strongly suggest a group brainstorm session. After all, the scary objectives that weigh most on your mind might present more straightforward solutions than initially thought. Your group might know answers to specific questions, which drastically lessen the effort required to accomplish what you want.
For instance, someone in your group might tell you more streamlined ways to get more speaking engagements or produce content.
As a general rule, anything that veers incredibly far from your comfort zone will require some guidance. Even your supportive third-person voice will tell you that.
Keeping Your Goals in Front of You
Telling you to write down a list of goals and using the methods to calculate their priority is one thing. Ensuring that you keep those objectives top-of-mind is a whole other story altogether.
Running a business comes with many moving parts that can make even the steadies hands tremble without a plan to remain focused. Fortunately, with the tips suggested below, it’s possible to keep your goals present and visible in your mind’s eye:
Writing Dates in Your Calendar that Inspire You:
Don’t merely put some task in your calendar that’s due on a given day. You need to inspire yourself. For instance, something like “cold-calling 30 customers” should turn into “spreading the word about my exciting new product.”
When all you do is write down the action, it obscures the forest through the trees. All you can see is the painstaking work involved versus what you’ll accomplish by putting in the effort.
Write what the outcome is for your business and not the mundane nuts and bolts of it.
From there, you’ll be inspired to click on the item in your calendar, where you’ll have a more detailed plan written. The OwnersUp platform has a feature that significantly streamlines this process. Furthermore, ensure that you put three reminders to receive emails so that the goal never slips your mind.
Here’s a useful tidbit: studies exist showing how people with ADD excel at completing tasks and projects with a transparent deadline and when there’s something that excites and inspires them.
Verbalize Your Goals to Whoever Will Listen:
When you say something, you tend to give it life. Whereas internalizing your goal provides a barrier that makes it seem like it doesn’t exist.
I tell as many people as I can about my goals. The more uncomfortable I am with the given objective, the louder I say it—creating a sense of accountability. Doing this helped me overcome my hesitancy for public speaking.
Initially, 7 years ago, I was horrified by any kind of event that required me to talk as part of a panel or as a keynote speaker. I’d make up every excuse in the book to wriggle my way out of the engagement. Soon, I realized that this fear of discomfort robbed me of a chance to grow my business.
To solve this problem and overcome my fear, I first told everybody I’d be giving a speech on a given date. Then I signed up for a public speaking/storytelling class. Lastly, I linked up with people whose goal was to improve and engage in more public speaking and enrolled them in my journey.
The accountability I created for myself by verbalizing my goal led me to where I am today, a frequent public speaker.
This tactic gets people cheering you on and checking in on your progress, so when you get stuck, they’ll remind you that you’re capable.
Moreover, these peers will reiterate why you embarked on this goal in the first place—all the positive impact it’ll have on your business.
Utilize Your Whiteboard (and other Visuals):
I write my goals on a whiteboard, vision board, desktop, and screensaver. This way, I’m always facing my top priorities.
Change Your Password to Your Goals
Your main goal of a month should be your password for whatever needs logging into. You’ll be actively forced to remember where your focuses should lie every time you need to use various platforms.
There’s an article about this from mind-hacks that speaks to the effectiveness of this technique. Really, it all comes down to positive reinforcement, and it’s a chance to create mantras that inspire you.
Place Your Goals on Your Google Chrome Pages:
There’s an app for Google Chrome –called Momentum – that allows you to upload a picture on your homepage. Use something that reminds you of your goal. For instance, if you need to make 50 sales calls by the end of the month, make the picture a phone. So, when you go on YouTube looking for a laugh, you’ll first be visually reminded of your top priority, keeping you on the straight and narrow.
Update Your Progress in OwnersUp:
The OwnersUp platform allows you to update your weekly progress on your goals. When tasks do make you uncomfortable, seeing your progress – or how far you’ve come – helps overcome the natural resistance in your path.
Be Reflective, Not Reactive.
Failing to reflect on what you’ve been doing doesn’t give you a chance to course-correct. Only moving forward without thinking about what you’re doing makes you reactive.
But setting aside one or two days a week to contemplate if you’re on track or if you need to switch strategies turns you into a fluid business owner. In today’s fast-paced landscape, you must be able to shift and pivot your strategy—goal prioritization is no different.
As such, I suggest that every Friday or Sunday, you take the time to ask yourself these three questions:
- Did your actions cause the results you wanted?
- What did you learn?
- What would you do differently?
Crucial Rules for Prioritization:
Rule #1: Put Your Goals in One Place
Insightfully and logically, prioritizing your goals requires that you don’t write them down on a million different lists. People have agendas, apps, to-do lists, and everything else under the sun, and all it amounts to is chaos.
During your one time per month where you assess your goals, having them in one place keeps you focused, so you don’t need to rethink everything.
Rule #2: Have Your Prioritization Formula
I’ve gone through this formula already. But always keep in mind that there’s something of a science to optimized prioritization. You should understand each step of the process, whether goal, action, impact, effort or priority.
Rule #3: Only include Projects that Take 8-plus Hours
We’ll take a trip back to the dopamine hit we get when completing projects with short deadlines. This kind of work might feel good, but it doesn’t belong on your list of prioritized goals. My system is meant for initiatives with a broader scope that challenge you and make you feel uncomfortable.
Rule#4: Put Measurable Projects into a Progress Sheet
First and foremost, putting all your work into a progress sheet keeps you accountable and on track. However, you also need to measure these projects, so you know what exactly you’re monitoring. Chiefly, this tactic makes you aware of if you’ve achieved the goal.
Finding Your Rhythm
They always say the drummers are the foundation in music—and that’s because they keep everything in rhythm.
Thus, the tips here – designed to keep you in rhythm – will provide a steady foundation on which you can insightfully prioritize and accomplish worthwhile goals:
Perform Monthly Retrospectives:
- Assess your performance over the past month.
- Map out your next month.
- Complete your project prioritization matrix.
- Enter tasks into your project prioritization tool.
- Ensure you’ve blocked time for all necessary tasks.
- Every Friday or Sunday, reflect on the work you’ve done.
- Decide if there’s a need to change course.
- Before bed, write down three “micro-goals” you want to accomplish tomorrow.
- Here, you meet with a group of entrepreneurs who can give you different perspectives and open you to other thought processes and opportunities.
- Furthermore, these groups help you learn from your mistakes so you can keep moving forward without reinventing the wheel.
- Lastly, these groups help you bust out of “default mode,” which is when you focus only on the tasks and projects where you’re most comfortable. Sometimes, you need a person from your network to give you that nudge and let you know you’re coasting and not focusing on the big picture:
- This puts you in the position to be reminded that you’re brilliant and capable when you’re scared at the beginning of your goal prioritization journey. And it keeps your mind on the outcome and finishing point.
Section 3: Inspirational Client Stories
Before getting into some of our success stories at OwnersUp, I want to explain the differentiating factor with our services:
Since our clients write down what they’re working on every day, we’re able to monitor what they’re doing and find behavioral trends. We’re then able to craft a system and approach around those common behaviors and struggles, catering even more to your experiences as a business owner.
Interestingly, we notice that many of our clients enjoy creating systems, incorporating automation, and client retention. Where they tend to neglect is marketing and sales. While the examples below are all unique, you’ll notice that these trends often hold true.
How Did an International Recruiter Overcome COVID-19 Related Challenges to His Business?
Michael, an international recruiter, was dealt a rough hand (like many of us) when the pandemic began. His business usually came from referrals—but COVID-19 made acquiring visas and overall employment trickier than usual.
So, Michael felt he needed to focus on marketing and thought leadership articles. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to write with two children involved in homeschooling.
It quickly became apparent that Michael needed to send short, personalized video recordings to his prospects—something far outside his comfort zone. The OwnersUp Group challenged him and held him accountable.
Eventually, making these videos became one of Michael’s strong suits. He even landed clients because of these efforts after thinking he couldn’t attract any during COVID-19.
How Did a Busy Mother Maximize the Short Amount of Time She Could Dedicate to Work?
Vicky runs a business that helps college students receive grants. Unfortunately, her busy life as a mother only allows her to dedicate a limited amount of time to her work.
It was then of the utmost importance for Vicky to learn how to delegate and prioritize her time. She also needed to figure out her main needle-movers as a businesswoman. Given that her industry peers work up to 80-hours per week, this would prove a difficult challenge with Vicky’s limited availability.
As a group, we helped brainstorm goals that would offer Vicky the most valuable outcomes that gave her forward momentum.
How Did a Business Owner with ADD Channel his Focus and Find Inspiration?
Raj has ADD and finds it incredibly challenging to focus. As I’ve discussed, something like a to-do list pulls you in hundreds of directions. With a learning difference that impacts your attention span, such tactics only create more chaos.
For Raj, applying the weekly milestones used through our goal prioritization process kept him inspired. And our system helped him define the most important goals that require his focus so he doesn’t get distracted by unnecessary noise.
Through this approach and the support his OwnersUp group provided, he landed another client.
How Did a T-Shirt Company Owner Put Out All His Fires Once and For All?
Samir runs a t-shirt company. Whenever he’d come in at first, he found that – despite having defined goals – there was a need to always be putting out fires in customer service or with design issues.
These issues led to Samir’s company plateauing—unable to get over the hump.
What we helped Samir do at OwnersUp was prioritize his marketing and sales strategy. Meaning he learned the delegation techniques necessary through our system. This way, he wouldn’t get thrown off course by customer service and design. As a result, he doubled his business’s monthly revenue.
Sign Up Today For Your Goals to Growth Action Planner.
As you can see, the system at OwnersUp yields results for our clients. Much of that success is due to our Goals to Growth Action Planner.
It’s time to extract the most value from every minute you spend on your business. Sign up for a free Goals to Growth Action Planner and optimize your goal prioritization process today!